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[This Impromptu appeared, many years ago, among the
Author's poems, from which, in subsequent editions, it was excluded. It is reprinted, at the request of the Friend in whose presence the lines were thrown off.]
The sun has long been set,
The stars are out by twos and threes, The little birds are piping yet
Among the bushes and trees ;
There's a cuckoo, and one or two thrushes,
And a far-off wind that rushes,
And a sound of water that gushes,
And the cuckoo's sovereign cry
Fills all the hollow of the sky.
Who would “go parading'
In London, and masquerading,'
On such a night of June
With that beautiful soft half-moon,
And all these innocent blisses ?
On such a night as this is !
No sound is uttered,—but a deep
And solemn harmony pervades
The hollow vale from steep to steep,
And penetrates the glades.
Far-distant images draw nigh,
Called forth by wondrous potency
Of beamy radiance, that imbues,
Whate'er it strikes, with gem-like hues !
In vision exquisitely clear,
Herds range along the mountain side ;
And glistening antlers are descried;
And gilded flocks appear.
Thine is the tranquil hour, purpureal Eve!
But long as god-like wish, or hope divine,
Informs my spirit, ne'er can I believe
That this magnificence is wholly thine !
–From worlds not quickened by the sun
A portion of the gift is won;
An intermingling of Heaven's pomp is spread
On ground which British shepherds tread !
COMPOSED UPON AN EVENING OF EXTRAORDINARY
SPLENDOUR AND BEAUTY.
Had this effulgence disappeared
With flying haste, I might have sent,
Among the speechless clouds, a look
Of blank astonishment;
But 'tis endued with power to stay,
And sanctify one closing day,
That frail Mortality may seem
What is ?-ah no, but what can be !
Time was when field and watery cove
With modulated echoes rang,
While choirs of fervent Angels sang
Their vespers in the grove;
And, if there be whom broken ties
Afflict, or injuries assail,
Yon hazy ridges to their eyes
Present a glorious scale,
Climbing suffused with sunny air,
To stop—no record hath told where!
And tempting Fancy to ascend,
And with immortal Spirits blend !
-Wings at my shoulders seem to play;
But, rooted here, I stand and gaze
On those bright steps that heaven-ward raise
Their practicable way.
Come forth, ye drooping old men, look abroad,
And see to what fair countries ye are bound !
And if some traveller, weary of his road,
Hath slept since noon-tide on the grassy ground,
Ye Genii! to his covert speed;
And wake him with such gentle heed
As may attune his soul to meet the dower
Bestowed on this transcendent hour!
Such hues from their celestial Urn
Were wont to stream before mine eye,
Where'er it wandered in the morn
Of blissful infancy.
This glimpse of glory, why renewed ?
Nay, rather speak with gratitude;
For, if a vestige of those gleams
Survived, 'twas only in my dreams.
Dread Power ! whom peace and calmness serve
No less than Nature's threatening voice,
If aught unworthy be my choice,
From Tuee if I would swerve;
Oh, let thy grace remind me of the light
Full early lost, and fruitlessly deplored;
Which, at this moment, on my waking sight
Appears to shine, by miracle restored ;
My soul, though yet confined to earth,
Rejoices in a second birth!
_”Tis past, the visionary splendour fades;
And night approaches with her shades.
And if not so, whose perfect joy makes sleep
A thing too bright for breathing man to keep.
Hail to the virtues which that perilous life
Extracts from Nature's elemental strife;
And welcome glory won in battles fought
As bravely as the foe was keenly sought.
But to each gallant Captain and his crew
A less imperious sympathy is due,
Such as my verse now yields, while moonbeams play
On the mute sea in this unruffled bay;
Such as will promptly flow from every breast,
Where good men, disappointed in the quest
Of wealth and power and honours, long for rest ;
Or, having known the splendours of success,
Sigh for the obscurities of happiness.
The Crescent-moon, the Star of Love,
Glories of evening, as ye there are seen
With but a span of sky between-
Speak one of you, my doubts remove,
Which is the attendant Page and which the Queen !
Note.-The multiplication of mountain-ridges, described at the commencement of the third Stanza of this Ode, as a kind of Jacob's Ladder, leading to Heaven, is produced either by watery vapours, or sunny haze;-in the present instance by the latter cause. Allusions to the Ode, entitled • Intimations of Immortality,' pervade the last stanza of the foregoing Poem.
(COMPOSED BY THE SEA-SIDE, -ON THE COAST OF
COMPOSED BY THE SEA-SHORE.
What mischief cleaves to unsubdued regret,
How fancy sickens by vague hopes beset ;
How baffled projects on the spirit prey,
And fruitless wishes eat the heart away,
The Sailor knows; he best, whose lot is cast
On the relentless sea that holds him fast
On chance dependent, and the fickle star
Of power, through long and melancholy war.
O sad it is, in sight of foreign shores,
Daily to think on old familiar doors,
Hearths loved in childhood, and ancestral floors;
Or, tossed about along a waste of foam,
To ruminate on that delightful home
Which with the dear Betrothèd was to come ;
Or came and was and is, yet meets the eye
Never but in the world of memory;
Or in a dream recalled, whose smoothest range
Is crossed by knowledge, or by dread, of change,
WANDERER ! that stoop’st so low, and com’st so near
To human life's unsettled atmosphere;
Who lov'st with Night and Silence to partake,
So might it seem, the cares of them that wake;
And, through the cottage-lattice softly peeping,
Dost shield from harm the humblest of the sleeping;
What pleasure once encompassed those sweet names
Which yet in thy behalf the Poet claims,
An idolizing dreamer as of yore!
I slight them all; and, on this sea-beat shore
Sole-sitting, only can to thoughts attend
That bid me hail thee as the Sailor's FRIEND;
So call thee for heaven's grace through thee made
By confidence supplied and mercy shown,
When not a twinkling star or beacon's light
Abates the perils of a stormy night ;
And for less obvious benefits, that find
Their way, with thy pure help, to heart and mind;
Both for the adventurer starting in life's prime;
And veteran ranging round from clime to clime,
Long-baffled hope's slow fever in his veins, Oft with his musings does thy image blend, And wounds and weakness oft his labour's sole In his mind's eye thy crescent horns ascend, remains.
And thou art still, O Moon, that Sailor's FRIEND!
The aspiring Mountains and the winding Streams, Empress of Night! are gladdened by thy beams ; A look of thine the wilderness pervades, And penetrates the forest's inmost shades; Thou, chequering peaceably the minster's gloom, Guid'st the pale Mourner to the lost one's tomb; Canst reach the Prisoner- to his grated cell Welcome, though silent and intangible !And lives there one, of all that come and go On the great waters toiling to and fro, One, who has watched thee at some quiet hour Enthroned aloft in undisputed power, Or crossed by vapoury streaks and clouds that move Catching the lustre they in part reproveNor sometimes felt a fitness in thy sway To call up thoughts that shun the glare of day, And make the serious happier than the gay?
Queen of the stars !—so gentle, so benign,
That ancient Fable did to thee assign,
When darkness creeping o'er thy silver brow
Warned thee these upper regions to forego,
Alternate empire in the shades below-
A Bard, who, lately near the wide-spread sea
Traversed by gleaming ships, looked up to thee
With grateful thoughts, doth now thy rising hail
From the close confines of a shadowy vale.
Glory of night, conspicuous yet serene,
Nor less attractive when by glimpses seen
Through cloudy umbrage, well might that fair face,
And all those attributes of modest grace,
In days when Fancy wrought unchecked by fear,
Down to the green earth fetch thee from thy sphere,
To sit in leafy woods by fountains clear!
Yes, lovely Moon! if thou so mildly bright Dost rouse, yet surely in thy own despite, To fiercer mood the phrenzy-stricken brain, Let me a compensating faith maintain ; That there's a sensitive, a tender, part Which thou canst touch in every human heart, For healing and composure.-But, as least And mightiest billows ever have confessed Thy domination; as the whole vast Sea Feels through her lowest depths thy sovereignty ; So shines that countenance with especial grace On them who urge the keel her plains to trace Furrowing its way right onward. The most rude, Cut off from home and country, may have stoodEven till long gazing hath bedimmed his eye, Or the mute rapture ended in a sighTouched by accordance of thy placid cheer, With some internal lights to memory dear, Or fancies stealing forth to soothe the breast Tired with its daily share of earth’s unrest,Gentle awakenings, visitations meek; A kindly influence whereof few will speak, Though it can wet with tears the hardiest cheek.
O still belov'd (for thine, meek Power, are charms That fascinate the very Babe in arms, While he, uplifted towards thee, laughs outright, Spreading his little palms in his glad Mother's sight) O still belov’d, once worshipped! Time, that frowns In his destructive flight on earthly crowns, Spares thy mild splendour; still those far-shot
beams Tremble on dancing waves and rippling streams With stainless touch, as chaste as when thy praise Was sung by Virgin-choirs in festal lays; And through dark trials still dost thou explore Thy way for increase punctual as of yore, When teeming Matrons—yielding to rude faith In mysteries of birth and life and death And painful struggle and deliverance-prayed Of thee to visit them with lenient aid. What though the rites be swept away, the fanes Extinct that echoed to the votive strains ; Yet thy mild aspect does not, cannot, cease Love to promote and purity and peace; And Fancy, unreproved, even yet may trace Faint types of suffering in thy beamless face.
And when thy beauty in the shadowy cave Is hidden, buried in its monthly grave; Then, while the Sailor, mid an open sea Swept by a favouring wind that leaves thought free, Paces the deck-no star perhaps in sight, And nothing save the moving ship's own light To cheer the long dark hours of vacant night
Then, silent Monitress ! let us not blind To worlds unthought of till the searching mind Of Science laid them open to mankind
Told, also, how the voiceless heavens declare
God's glory; and acknowledging thy share
In that blest charge; let us—without offence
To aught of highest, holiest, influence
Receive whatever good 'tis given thee to dispense.
May sage and simple, catching with one eye
The moral intimations of the sky,
Learn from thy course, where'er their own be taken,
* To look on tempests, and be never shaken ;'
To keep with faithful step the appointed way
Eclipsing or eclipsed, by night or day,
And from example of thy monthly range
Gently to brook decline and fatal change;
Meek, patient, stedfast, and with loftier scope,
Than thy revival yields, for gladsome hope !
COMPOSED OR SUGGESTED DURING A TOUR, IN THE SUMMER OF 1833.
[Having been prevented by the lateness of the season, in 1831, from visiting Staffa and Iona, the author made these the principal objects of a short tour in the summer of 1833, of which the following series of poems is a Memorial. The course pursued was down the Cumberland river Derwent, and to Whitehaven; thence (by the Isle of Man, where a few days were passed) up the Frith of Clyde to Greenock, then to Oban, Staffa, Iona; and back towards England, by Loch Awe, Inverary, Loch Goil-head, Greenock, and through parts of Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, and Dumfries-shire to Carlisle, and thence up the river Eden, and homewards by Ullswater.)
Adieu, Rydalian Laurels ! that have grown
And spread as if ye knew that days might come
When ye would shelter in a happy home,
On this fair Mount, a Poet of your own,
One who ne'er ventured for a Delphic crown
To sue the God; but, haunting your green shade
All seasons through, is humbly pleased to braid
Ground-flowers, beneath your guardianship, self
Of Truth and Beauty, strives to imitate,
Far as she may, primeval Nature's style.
Fair Land ! by Time's parental love made free,
By Social Order's watchful arms embraced ;
With unexampled union meet in thee,
For eye and mind, the present and the past ;
With golden prospect for futurity,
If that be reverenced which ought to last.
Farewell! no Minstrels now with harp new-strung
For summer wandering quit their household bowers; They called Thee Merry England, in old time ;
Yet not for this wants Poesy a tongue
To cheer the Itinerant on whom she pours
A happy people won for thee that name
Her spirit, while he crosses lonely moors,
With envy heard in many a distant clime ;
And, spite of change, for me thou keep'st the same
Or musing sits forsaken halls among.
Endearing title, a responsive chime
To the heart's fond belief ; though some there are
Whose sterner judgments deem that word a snare Why should the Enthusiast, journeying through For inattentive Fancy, like the lime this Isle
Which foolish birds are caught with. Can, I ask, Repine as if his hour were come too late ? This face of rural beauty be a mask Not unprotected in her mouldering state,
For discontent, and poverty, and crime ; Antiquity salutes him with a smile,
These spreading towns a cloak for lawless will ? Mid fruitful fields that ring with jocund toil, Forbid it, Heaven !-and Merry ENGLAND still And pleasure-grounds where Taste, refined Co-mate Shall be thy rightful name, in prose and rhyme !
ADDRESS FROM THE SPIRIT OF COCKERMOUTH
TO THE RIVER GRETA, NEAR KESWICK.
GRETA, what fearful listening! when huge stones
Rumble along thy bed, block after block :
Or, whirling with reiterated shock,
Combat, while darkness aggravates the groans :
But if thou (like Cocytus from the moans
Heard on his rueful margin) thence wert named
The Mourner, thy true nature was defamed,
And the habitual murmur that atones
For thy worst rage, forgotten. Oft as Spring
Decks, on thy sinuous banks, her thousand thrones,
Seats of glad instinct and love's carolling,
The concert, for the happy, then may vie
With liveliest peals of birth-day harmony :
To a grieved heart, the notes are benisons.
“ Thou look'st upon me, and dost fondly think,
Poet! that, stricken as both are by years,
We, differing once so much, are now Compeers,
Prepared, when each has stood his time, to sink
Into the dust. Erewhile a sterner link
United us; when thou, in boyish play,
Entering my dungeon, didst become a prey
To soul-appalling darkness. Not a blink
Of light was there ;—and thus did I, thy Tutor,
Make thy young thoughts acquainted with the grave;
While thou wert ch the wing'd butterfly
Through my green courts; or climbing, a bold suitor,
Up to the flowers whose golden progeny
Still round my shattered brow in beauty wave."
Among the mountains were we nursed, loved
NUN'S WELL, BRIGHAM.
The cattle crowding round this beverage clear Thou near the eagle's nest—within brief sail,
To slake their thirst, with reckless hoofs have trod I, of his bold wing floating on the gale,
The encircling turf into a barren clod; Where thy deep voice could lull me ! Faint the Through which the waters creep, then disappear, Of human life when first allowed to gleam [beam Born to be lost in Derwent flowing near; On mortal notice.—Glory of the vale,
Yet, o'er the brink, and round the lime-stone cell Such thy meek outset, with a crown, though frail, Of the pure spring (they call it the “ Nun's Well,” Kept in perpetual verdure by the steam
Name that first struck by chance my startled ear) Of thy soft breath !--Less vivid wreath entwined A tender Spirit broods—the pensive Shade Nemæan victor's brow ; less bright was worn, Of ritual honours to this Fountain paid Meed of some Roman chief-in triumph borne By hooded Votaresses with saintly cheer; With captives chained ; and shedding from his car Albeit oft the Virgin-mother mild The sunset splendours of a finished war
Looked down with pity upon eyes beguiled Upon the proud enslavers of mankind !
Into the shedding of too soft a tear.'
IN SIGHT OF THE TOWN OF COCKERMOUTH.
(Where the Author was born, and his Father's remains
A Point of life between my Parents' dust,
And yours, my buried Little-ones ! am I ;
And to those graves looking habitually
In kindred quiet I repose my trust.
Death to the innocent is more than just,
And, to the sinner, mercifully bent ;
So may I hope, if truly I repent
And meekly bear the ills which bear I must :
And You, my Offspring ! that do still remain,
Yet may outstrip me in the appointed race,
If e'er, through fault of mine, in mutual pain
We breathed together for a moment's space,
The wrong, by love provoked, let love arraign,
And only love keep in your hearts a place.
(ON THE BANKS OF THE DERWENT.)
Pastor and Patriot !-at whose bidding rise
These modest walls, amid a flock that need,
For one who comes to watch them and to feed,
A fixed Abode—keep down presageful sighs.
Threats, which the unthinking only can despise,
Perplex the Church ; but be thou firm,--be true
To thy first hope, and this good work pursue,
Poor as thou art. A welcome sacrifice
Dost Thou prepare, whose sign will be the smoke
Of thy new hearth; and sooner shall its wreaths,
Mounting while earth her morning incense breathes,
From wandering fiends of air receive a yoke,
And straightway cease to aspire, than God disdain
This humble tribute as ill-timed or vain.